Friday 29 August 2014

The Father of Whist Versus the Publishing Pirates

Edmond Hoyle (1672 – London, England, 29th August 1769)

Edmond Hoyle
Edmond Hoyle

Although fond of a social gathering and the occasional game of chance, I have never been a lady who gambles or one who is an expert with a deck of cards! My grandfather was likewise not a gambler but he knew more than a few card games and it is through him that I first encountered whist, a game in which our guest today is widely regarded as one of the leading experts of the 18th century.

Edmond Hoyle had already lived a long and mysterious life by the time he began tutoring some most illustrious clients in how to excel at the game of whist. In addition to his skills as a tutor, he provided his clients with written notes to support their lessons and soon these notes grew into a manuscript. In 1742 he published his book, A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist. This hugely successful work sold for one guinea and it was soon a sell out, so popular and fashionable had to game become. However, Hoyle did not reprint the book and instead sold the rights for 100 guineas to Francis Cogan, a London bookseller.

Unfortunately, Cogan was not to see any benefit from this enormous investment as, before he republished the book, two most unpleasant printers began publishing pirated copies credited only to A Gentleman. Publishing under the names Webb and Webster, these miscreants made a tidy sum from their scheme and though Cogan an was eventually successful in blocking these uncredited reprints, he was about to face even more financial problems thanks to what must have seemed like a good deal at the time!

In order to ensure that only official copies of the book were sold, Cogan decided that each copy of the book he published should be personally signed by Hole. Hoyle was happy to do this for tuppence per signature and so Cogan was forced to pay out once more, providing the elderly yet canny author with tuppence for each book he signed. Hoyle would publish other gaming books but none were as lucrative as the first, though Francis Cogan did not opt to but any further rights from the elderly card player!


Sue Bursztynski said...

Some things never change, eh? :-)

Catherine Curzon said...

Very true!